June 10, 2007

Mechanistic Repentance

I have written and spoken often about my concerns that Lutheranism as it is practiced and understood by many today inculcates a mechanistic reliance upon general confession and is imbued with a spirit of antinomianism. (I do not believe that this is in any way consistent with the Symbols of our church.) Pr. William Weedon recently published this excellent statement from Henry Jacobs:

The greater the faith, the deeper the Repentance. Contrition is not a matter of the emotions; it is simply man’s aversion to sin.

Working statement: If a man is contrite, he will strive to avoid sin at all costs. On account of his sinful flesh, he will struggle and fall (as Luther wrote, "We daily sin much"). But this in no way excuses him from struggling with his flesh. His security is in Christ, but on account of his own flesh, he lives in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12). This sinful flesh and the daily struggle with it is what drives a man again and again to confession and Mass--that is, to Christ.

When a man ceases the struggle, it is as though he stops breathing. Spiritually, he is dead, irrespective of how often he attends church services.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This is how Satan attacks Christians. He points out one area where the Christian does "well" and the Christian sees this, thinks, "I'm doing good," and excludes all other aspects of life where he most certainly is not doing well. And we become content sinners.

I pointed this out yesterday in the sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man. It went over. . . hard. I got a lot of dour looks, but they were insightful. Satan doesn't try to get Christians to knowingly break the law - it's much better just to get them to forget the law.

Richard Townes said...

"Repentance, therefore, is nothing else than a return and approach to Baptism, to resume and practice what had earlier been begun but abandoned." In light of this post I think I finally understand this gem from the Large catechism. In Baptism we are connected to the Christ (Rom6:4). Our Lord resisted the devil's temptations in his life and conquered the foe in his death. So penitent Christians must "practice" the works of the Christ by fighting temptations in life knowing that in death they will be raised just as Christ was raised. Is this correct?

Rev. Christopher S. Esget said...

I think that's a nice way of putting it, Richard. Or, as Luther said, "The whole Christian life is one of repentance."